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Subject Representative Government To The Scientific Principle

Evaluate need for representatives using the scientific method
  (+2, -1)
(+2, -1)
  [vote for,

The below is written with the US Congress in mind but can be adapted to other representative democracies.

Much is often made of the virtues of representative, as opposed to direct, democracy. This is thought to be especially useful in limiting mob rule.

At the same time, many express unhappiness both with politicians that are slaves to the polls and with politicians that vote for some secret special interests -- which presumably means also against the polls, but never mind that one.

Test the possibility of direct rule by a set of scientific tests, for instance:

1) Selecting a large "representative" sample of the population, find out how they would vote on each bill that comes up before Congress and compare results. Do this for some significant amount of time, perhaps a complete session.

2) Using a similar sample group, test knowledge of the issues covered in any given bill. Simultenously test Congress on same.

Besides making a hell of a PHD paper for a Political Science major, these types of studies may be very illuminating as to the nature of our democracy.

theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

Draft First Term Representatives http://www.halfbake...m_20Representatives
[theircompetitor, Oct 17 2004]

Arrow's therom http://en.wikipedia...possibility_theorem
[mouseposture, Aug 14 2011]

The Open Act http://whatsnext.bl...-digital-democracy/
[theircompetitor, Jan 19 2012]

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       UnaBubba -- that's why the studies would last a session of Congress as opposed to a single day.   

       Since Gallup and other similar polls are supposed to be "scientifically accurate", I don't think that selecting a sample is a problem. As large as possible, obviously.   

       There's also another approach -- just select identical number -- 535, I think -- of random US Citizens.
theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

       I would have been happy with an "undecided" return....can we choose some new candidates and try it again ? Oh, that's what we're doing right now....I want to be able to vote for "none of the above".
normzone, Feb 18 2004

       UnaBubba -- I'm not sure what we're disagreeing about here.   

       Are you suggesting that such an experiment is impossible? I don't understand why.   

       The point of the experiment, to my mind, is to show that there's no downside to doing it from a pure results point of view -- # of votes, results of votes, etc, in other words, the world doesn't end and in fact is completely safe for democracy. I'm not sure how your points address that.
theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

       Oh, you're talking about near ties?   

       But this is not an issue here -- because each vote would work as a "vote" with a simple count -- question interpretation etc is not an issue here -- otherwise, might as well say that when representatives vote there's a margin of error because they may not have understood the bill -- true it may be, but irrelevant to the results
theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

       Taking a big stick and going to look for a piñata.
theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

       jutta -- I'm sorry, please elaborate on this one.   

       I'm specifically talking about an experiment -- the results of which could then be used to justify either my opinion or yours. To my knowledge, such an experiment has not been done -- instead, people express opinions as though they know.
theircompetitor, Feb 18 2004

       I do not equate voting with ruling. I view representatives as potentially unnecessary middlemen.   

       Replacing them with direct voting seems like a worthy goal. It does not address any of the other issues you raise -- compromise, debate, etc -- these would still occur in the population at large -- as they do now anyway.   

       But today, constituent needs are arguably the last thing representatives look at. I'm just looking for a way to make that impossible.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       political deadlock occurs all the time in representative governments -- particularly those that are parlamientary in nature. The US structure is better, I think, but Congress can still deadlock on many issues.   

       My long term belief has been that you can eliminate the House in favor of direct voting, leaving the other branches of government as is. I think this would work quite well and would get people more involved in politics.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       You want each citizen to be able to cast a vote on each issue? Is there more to it than that?   

       The US is way to big to move to a direct democracy.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004

       In this idea, I'm proposing some scientific experiments that will test whether or not your assertion is in fact correct.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       As much as I deplore our current system, I don't think that letting us vote on each issue is going to necessarily improve the situation.   

       But, being willing to experiment, I would like to see party politics being eliminated.   

       But if we're going to keep the party system, I'd advocate a rotating chair approach. One term for the Dems, then one for the Libs. Then one for the Repubs, then one for the Greens, etcetera.   

       I'd also like to see a "one issue, one vote" system. No bundling of issues into omnibus bills. You are either for, or against each issue on it's own merits. This should clarify where our "repre - selectitives" really stand.   

       I'd also advocate a tax spending selection system. Since I can't yet prevent 25% of my income being taken from me, I'd like to be able to check a box detailing whether my money gets spent on infrastructure, social programs, or weapons.   

       The system is so broken, ANY experiments would be beneficial.
normzone, Feb 19 2004

       [tc] Please take a moment and watch a House session on CSPAN. See how many issues raised that you or any of your neighbors understand to the level that your representatives do. My guess you'll come up with a number about equal to 0. Direct democracy is either a massive waste of resources (everyone having to gain a professional level of political knowlege) or more likely a good way to remove intellegence from a political system.
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       Worldgineer: I do watch CSPAN, and I do completely disagree.   

       But this idea is not about which one of us is right -- it has to do with scientifically testing which one of us is right.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       Tell me if I understand you correctly:   

       Hypothesis: People know as much or more than politicians.   

       Test of hypothesis: Test knowledge of the issues covered in any given bill. Simultenously test Congress on same. Also, for some unspecified reason, find out how people would vote on this bill.
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       Worldgineer: you're getting hotter, but not quite. Scientific Methold, after all, is pretty all encompassing :)   

       So one proposed experiment might be to see if an equivalent number of randomly selected citizens would vote identically or similarly enough to the representatives (see my related "Draft First Term Representatives" idea)   

       Another experiment might be how many people would vote if you put up an issue and held it out for as long a period of time as debate on the floor, then cut it off with the vote, etc.   

       So, multiple different experiments to see if representatives are in fact necessary.   

       Please note as I mentioned above and elsewhere, as far as my opinion goes, I believe that the House, and the House only, can be eliminated. I would leave the Senate and the other branches in place.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       Problem is, I don't see the link between this idea (or your listed experiments) and whether representatives are "necessary" (whatever you mean by that).
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       Problem is political science already exists.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004

       Hmmm. Here's a large experiment:   

       Year: 2000. Popular Vote Count: Gore. Election: Bush. Here's one vote that "representatives" decided that decidedly churned up some heat (I voted for Bush) -- and please let's assume for the purposes of this discussion that Bush did win Florida and not argue about hijacked elections.   

       So here's a case where the "mob" decided differently then the "representatives" and in the minds of half the country, not better.   

       Overall, votes break along party affiliations more often then everything else -- I think that statistically, they would continue to break down that way, and I think these types of experiment would prove it.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       Still doesn't sound very scientific. You're now trying to show that //votes break along party affiliations more often then everything else//, with no proposed connection whether representatives are "necessary" (which is what I thought you were trying to show).
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       I'm sure this has been done, I'm sure not going to look for a link.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004

       I'm sorry, I don't get what you don't get   

       If I were to:   

       1) randomly select a number of people equal to the number of representatives:   

       2) Record how they would have voted on every issue before the House during a given session (i.e. 2 year period)   

       3) Find out that the results are essentially identical   

       You don't think that would have any bearing on the debate on the need of representatives?
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       Ok, sure. But that's not how I read your idea or annos.
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       The idea -- now nearly overbaked :) -- is that a range of experiments can be performed, without specifying each one -- I assumed it would be obvious that such an experiment can be devised, sorry.   

       Yabba is even thinking it's been done.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

The Kat, Feb 19 2004

       [tc] I'm fine with this being an obscure experiment. I do have a problem with your claims that the results of this experiment can show to the level of "fact" that representatives are not "necessary", even if the results came out exactly as you desire.   

       Most of all, I agree with [Kat]. (Did I just type that?)
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004

       Are you making fun of me? 'Cause I'm making fun of you.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004

       There once was a British old Kat
Political Scientist -- Not
He does fall asleep
When ideas are deep
So sorry, that's all that I've got

       Today on this idea at least, yabba, et al
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       Fishbone for you, then.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004

       Less of the *old* if you don't mind. Quite the kitten here.   

       & British? Are you quite sure of that!
The Kat, Feb 19 2004

       Going by email address from profile -- work with me, here :)   

       See my profile for a much better cat   

       And yabba, now you fishbone me? When my back is turned away? I'll remember :)
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       I will state the problems with direct democracy:

       Average person is ignorant   

       Average person has *no* ability to 'protect' the future - we all know that SUVs are bad for the enviroment, and that the enviroment (if damaged) will harm us, but because it will not har them for 10-20 years they do not stop driving (SUVs).
my-nep, Feb 19 2004

       my-nep: someone always has a reason why direct voting doesn't work. I'm suggesting to prove or disprove that thesis.   

       Congress does not lead in any case, for the most part it follows
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       (+) I don't see what the problem is. [jutta] has a point in saying that voting is just the boring part of politics. Writing the bill, making amendments, negotiating compromises, etc. are the sausage-making of the process. But this experiment doesn't seem to me to be much more than pretending that every congressional vote is a referendum. Not difficult, but it doesn't mean you can get rid of representatives. Someone has to write the bill.
ConsultingDetective, Feb 19 2004

       I keep saying other branches are there, so Senate would still be there.   

       Do you for a moment think that either Representatives or Senators actually "write" the bills? There are staffers and lobbyists to do that.   

       These would not dissapear -- whatever memes exist, they would continue to push their agenda on the ballot.   

       In many states, there are more and more initiatives that go directly to referendum -- chiefly because politicians are scared and want the cover.   

       When these initiatives make it to the ballot, in many states, including NJ where I live, there is a "plain language" requirement.   

       In short, I don't think that writing a bill is a problem. The current system is a "priesthood" system -- meant to deter participation due to artificially introduced complexity. None of it is necessary.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       But ideas and the associations that form around them do have money and power. They can simply lobby the electorate directly, as they do today anyway.   

       Negotiation that establishes budget priority appears to be required, since you can't have everything. The national debate would occur on that regardless.   

       Middlemen create inefficiencies. I'm not convinced that these middlement are required. And I am convinced that these middlemen come at a hefty price.
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       In spite of, as [UnaBubba] has shown, the great distance between representatives and the pubic, the results of this experiment would show an astounding level of agreement between the two sets of votes. Yet this result will not prove what [TC] would like it to. In a democracy after all, by definition, the leaders must and do act in accordance with the will of the people. At the same time the leaders in any system are acutely aware of the public’s ignorance, carelessness, greed, fickleness, credulity etc.   

       Those with a working knowledge of the power and flexibility of public opinion will not find this to be a paradox.
Fussass, Feb 19 2004

       I second [Fuss]'s sentiment. California's initiative process is a wonderful demonstration of how bad of an idea this is. There are basic formulas to passing laws in CA, with one of the few parameters being how much money you have to run ads.
Worldgineer, Feb 19 2004


       I'm not at all suggesting that the country does not require visionary leaders. Nor am I pushing for rule by referendum or "vote of the day". God knows, many parlamentary systems are near paralyzed because of coalition building and no confidence threats, without having direct voting.   

       The leadership function could be amply fullfiled by Presidents and Senators, while sanity and liberty would continue to be guarded by the courts.   

       I'm proposing a very carefully orchestrated change to our system of government that would involve voters much more directly on every issue without eliminating the Republic.   

       Why is one representative better then another?   

       Does not the line of reasoning presented against this experiment and against direct voting argue against electing representatives and in favor of "elite" rule by some set of appropriate criteria. After all, we appear to suck at electing politicians and are not qualified to vote directly?   

       As I'm sure many know, Senators used to be chosen by governors. Is the country better off now or then?
theircompetitor, Feb 19 2004

       I predict a few results:   

       Where you just pick out a bunch of people before each vote and see what they say, your fantasy govenrment goes bankrupt.   

       Where you pay the people to study the bills first, you find that even so, no one would vote for the unpopular decisions that may be necesary. The mechanism for getting bills like that through (in the uk at lesat) is for the whips of the governing party to make their parties MPs vote with the govenrment.)   

       My overall guess is that the more people you have involved the less decisions will be made sensibly, and the smaller the chance of compromise.   

       Personally I'd like to see how the results turned out. Bar in mind though, that if you had many mass votes, most people would probably vote as if chosen for the first experiment as they won't have the time to read every bill.
RobertKidney, Feb 20 2004

       Robert -- I would probably agree with your prediction if the voters would submit to the bills as they come today.   

       But how they come today is an artifact of today's system. I think that process could be reengineered and simplified.
theircompetitor, Feb 20 2004

       We're all specialists in our job & hobby areas, and the economy can only afford a small few of us to specialize in most issues that are up for voting.   

       This experiment would just prove that the average voter is more ignorant on some specific issues than their representative. Go ahead and do it, but don't expect a PhD.
sophocles, Feb 20 2004

       sophocles: You've heard how candidates have to "stay on message". This means that they have to sell us hypersimplified visions of themselves and of the issues.   

       So we choose the best representative based on the above and probably based on how they look and sound on TV. But somehow we wind up choosing the right representative to make all those hard, informed decisions you allude to? And the people in the other 435 districts do same?
theircompetitor, Feb 20 2004

       We elect officials in a similar way as we hire anybody. Based on past performance and future goals. The only difference is that the interviews are between one person and millions, rather than one on one. How do we end up choosing the "right" employees elsewhere? We don't always. But if they screw up too often we fire them. And sometimes we then hire Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Worldgineer, Feb 20 2004

       With rare exceptions (contract with America), the real agenda is set by the President.   

       It's laughable to see a representative say that he's going to "fight for change in Washington".   

       There are extraordinary people in Congress, especially the Senate.   

       Why can't those same people, as well as the other obligatory talking heads, lead the national debate and then conclude with their endorsement with the obligatory "Vote Yes for Proposition 225" or "Vote Against The War Resolution", etc, etc, and then we vote?
theircompetitor, Feb 20 2004

       (From a UK perspective, but I suspect the US is the same.) I don't think you realise how many bills are passed. Parliament has a completely full schedule.   

       I know MPs don't sepend a full time jobs worth of time in parliament, as they also have to spend time dealing with constituents problems, but it would easily leave me without any free time.
RobertKidney, Feb 22 2004

       What you're really arguing for is a more informed and involved public body. Which would be a nice change. Perhaps an institution should be set up that does a better job than the current media at linking them.
RayfordSteele, Feb 22 2004

       RobertKidney -- I think what people are missing is that the current system is the way it is because of how it is. Doesn't mean it has to be that way. When the government shutdown happened a few years ago there were lots of jokes about how we're actually saving money. There's not necessarily a reason to have such busy sessions.   

       Rayford Steele: yes, but given advances in technology I see no reason why it cannot progress at some point to actual voting.
theircompetitor, Feb 22 2004

       I think thats where we differ then. I'll give you a vote, because I would be interested in the results, even though I think I know what they would be. Get yourself some funding and we'll talk again.
RobertKidney, Feb 22 2004

       Open Act sounds interesting. I wonder how it would be abused, armies of corporate cyber-bots? Mounds of Mormon church followers voting and editing up controversial bills?
RayfordSteele, Jan 19 2012


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